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date: 22 September 2018

Political Ideologies and Penality

Summary and Keywords

The literature on contemporary Western punishment presents us with a number of possible approaches to political ideologies and penality. The first approach requires us to ask what different political ideologies have to say about crime and punishment. This entails a close analysis of the ideologies’ main claims on matters of power, authority, and collective co-existence, to see if and how such claims have played out in the penal sphere. Analyses of social democratic penality serve here as useful case studies for such an approach. Such analyses also illustrate the second approach to questions of political ideology and penality. This approach requires us to ask what impact crime has had upon the fate of different ideologies. Have the changing incidence and changing perceptions of crime come to threaten the legitimacy of dominant ideologies? The third approach is that of critique of ideology: penality is studied as ideology, to discern what it conceals about reality and existing power relations. Here the analysis of contemporary UK offences of dangerousness acts as a case study for such an approach. To the extent that offences of dangerousness are rooted in neoliberalism, the discussion also introduces us to debates concerning neoliberalism and penality, in particular the idea that contemporary punishment expresses both the ascendancy of neoliberal doxa, and the decline of existing macro-ideologies such as social democracy. This decline can be seen as a move toward a post-ideological era, in which crime and punishment have come to replace political visions and utopias. However, recent scholarship on political ideologies argues that the latter are ubiquitous and permanent features of political thinking. This implies that the contemporary era cannot be described as post-ideological. Rather, it is an era in which macro-ideologies such as social democracy—which provided a holistic view of social order and comprehensive ideational resources to construct it—have been replaced by thin ideologies—which offer us narrower visions and ambitions. Examples of such thin ideologies include populism and technocracy. It is then possible to study the link between thin-ideologies and penality, a study that is here exemplified by the analysis of populism and penal populism, and technocracy and epistemic crime control. An analysis of thin ideologies and penality can also be undertaken with a normative project in mind, namely that of identifying within these thin ideologies, possible ideational resources that might be used to imagine a better penal future: one that is more moderate, more democratic, and less punitive.

Keywords: political ideologies, punishment, crime, critique of ideology, post-ideology

Political Ideologies and Penality: Three Approaches

The relationship between political ideologies and penality has sparked debate in recent penal analysis. The work of Ian Loader and Richard Sparks is instructive in this respect (2016, 2017)—given its explicit engagement with the issue—and provides a framework with which to conceptualize the possible connections between ideology and penality. According to Loader and Sparks we need to ask two sets of interlinked questions about ideologies and crime control:

[F]irst, what do modern and emergent political ideologies have to say about crime and how have they respectively tried to shape the ways in which crime has been apprehended and responded to over the last several decades? [. . .] Second, how have the content and fortunes of different ideologies been affected by the salience of crime as a social and governmental problem?

(Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 316)

The first set of questions is concerned with the understanding of crime and crime control, from the vantage point of particular ideologies: What does ideology X have to say about crime and punishment? The second set of questions asks about the impact that crime and crime control have had on the contours, and even survival, of political ideologies: How has ideology X withstood the test of crime? (see also Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 325).

It is possible to examine the relationship between political ideologies and penality from a third approach: critique of ideology. This third approach addresses ideology from a more explicitly critical position, one that “[critiques] the ruling ideas of the present as ideology,” in the process “identifying the historical conditions” of their ascendancy, and thus their historical contingency (Ramsay, 2014, p. 211; emphasis added). Here ideology is conceived of as “meaning in the service of domination” rather than “ideology as a cluster of beliefs” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 319). The difference between this approach and Loader and Sparks’ first set of questions may be one of degree—the degree to which the relevant penal scholar is making their critical position explicit—and there may therefore be overlap between the two approaches. One way of understanding the distinction is to understand the third approach as asking not “what does ideology X say about crime and punishment?” but rather what can be unearthed by a study of penality understood as ideology? A critical analysis of punishment and crime control then tries to reveal what is hidden—typically about power relations—rather than adopting the more neutral approach of “decoding” political ideological formations without judging them (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 322).

Whether they answer the first, second, or even third set of questions, analyses of political ideologies and penality have been of the inter-disciplinary kind. They combine—to list but some of the possible approaches—sociology, political economy, historical analysis, and a close reading of the criminal law. This “contamination” between fields of study should be seen as the logical outcome of the multi-faceted nature of both political ideologies and penality.

This article proceeds in five sections: section one provides definitions of the key terms political ideology and penality; section two then delineates the geographical and temporal limits of the essay. Section three discusses literature that has analyzed social democracy and punishment. It uses this literature as a case study with which to illustrate the application of Loader and Sparks’ first and second set of questions. Section four analyzes the third possible approach to a study of ideology and punishment. It uses the work of Peter Ramsay as an example of contemporary critique of ideology. Taking its cue from the underlying assumptions contained in Ramsay’s analysis, section five then addresses the question of punishment and post-ideology. It discusses the argument according to which crime and punishment have come to fill the vacuum left by past political ideologies; it also addresses Loader and Sparks’ opposition to this argument. In so doing, the section draws upon their analysis of the links between contemporary thin ideologies—populism and technocracy—and contemporary punishment. Section five returns to Loader and Sparks’ initial methodology, but adds a further question, namely whether these thin ideologies offer any resources for a possible reform of Western penality. The article concludes by presenting some questions about political ideology and punishment that penal scholars may need to address in future.

Definitions: Political Ideologies and Penality

Before moving onto a more substantive discussion of ideologies and penality, we start with the definitions of these key concepts. The term penality should here be taken to encompass state punishment, defined by Nicola Lacey as:

legal punishment [. . .] the principled infliction by a state-constituted institution of what are generally regarded as unpleasant consequences upon individuals or groups adjudicated, in accordance with publicly and legally recognised criteria and procedures, correctly applied, to have breached the law, as a response to that breach, as enforcement of the law and where that response is not inflicted solely as a means of providing compensation for the harm caused by the offence.

(Lacey, 1988, pp. 11–12)1

Penality should also be read to include crime control, linked to but not entirely contiguous with state punishment, not least because punishment may be justified or motivated by reasons other than the control of criminal behavior. Including crime control in the definition of penality brings the criminal law and questions of criminalization—the definition of, and the response to, crime (Lacey, 2007, p. 197)—within the remit of this analysis. It thus broadens the discussion to include issues concerning the range of conduct subject to criminal prohibition within given jurisdictions; how this range has changed over time (for the United Kingdom, see Ashworth & Zedner, 2014 as a key example); and how this change links to political ideologies (see for example Ramsay, 2006, 2012).

Following Loader and Sparks’ lead (2016, 2017), a useful definition of political ideologies can be sought in the work of Michael Freeden (1996, 2003). Thus, a political ideology is:

a set of ideas, beliefs, opinions, and values that:

exhibit a recurring pattern

are held by significant groups

compete over providing and controlling plans for public policy

do so with the aim of justifying, contesting, or changing the social and political arrangements and processes of a political community.

(Freeden, 2003, p. 32)

Ideologies do not just compete over “plans for public policy,” they also “compete over the control of political language” (Freeden, 2003, p. 55). As such, they can provide a set of ideational resources with which individuals can imagine their collectivity, and themselves as part of such a collectivity (Freeden, 2003, p. 2). Political ideologies provide us with ideational and linguistic tools with which to try and answer key questions such as: Who are “we”? What is our vision of the “good life”? What needs to be done to achieve this vision?

Thus defined, political ideologies are understood as being “ubiquitous and permanent” features of political thinking (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 319, citing Freeden, 1996, p. 2). Seen from this perspective, ideologies should not be discredited as mere instruments “manipulated by the powers that be” (Freeden, 2003, p. 2, also pp. 5–11), though they have and may yet be used in such a guise (see approach three). Similarly, we should be wary of assuming that the passage of mass ideologies—such as Marxism—has sounded the death knell for all political ideologies so that, since the late 1980s, the contemporary world is post-ideological, and political clashes are, and should be, replaced by debates over single issues (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 316). For the purposes of overall intelligibility, this article adopts Freeden’s position—albeit contested—that “there is something profoundly impossible in the idea that it is possible to inhabit the world outside of political categories, to rid thought and action of its position inside ideological formations of one kind or another” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 319; also Freeden, 1996; Marks, 2003, p. 26; Ramsay, 2014, p. 211). Thus, political ideologies do—and do still—exist and, what is more, they have something to say about crime and punishment.

This having been said, it is undeniable that political ideologies have changed in the contemporary ear, particularly since 1989 and the end of the Cold War. It is therefore useful to place a gloss on our definition of political ideologies, and to differentiate between macro-ideologies and thin ideologies. According to Freeden macro-ideologies are “overarching, inclusive networks of ideas that have offered solutions, deliberately or by default, to all the important political issues confronting a society” (2003, p. 78). Freeden includes major Western ideological families in this category—liberalism, socialism/social democracy and conservatism—as well as “totalitarian ideologies” (p. 90)—fascism, national socialism, and communism (Freeden, 2003, ch. 6). By contrast a thin ideology is one with a restricted form (“morphology,” Freeden, 2003, p. 98; Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 101): “It severs itself from wider ideational contexts [. . .] does not embrace the full range of questions that the macro-ideologies do, and is limited in its ambitions and scope” (Freeden, 2003, p. 98). Nationalism would be one such thin ideology:

[It] concentrates on the exceptional worth of a nation as the shaper of human identity while often emphasizing its superiority over other national entities [but] does little else. It [. . .] does not produce a scheme for the just distribution of scarce and vital goods—the famous “who gets what, when, how” question that is [. . .] central to politics.

(Freeden, 2003, p. 98)2

This historical shift in Western democracies from the predominance of macro-ideologies, to the emergence of thin ideologies, passing by claims that we live in a post-ideological age, has found space within academic literature concerned with punishment. For example, two thin ideologies—populism and technocracy—have been analyzed in conjunction with their penal counterparts—“penal populism” and “epistemic crime control” (Loader & Sparks, 2017). This historical development, and its implication for punishment scholarship, will be discussed in “Out With Politics, In With Crime? Post-Ideology, Thin Ideologies, and Penality.”

The Parameters of the Discussion: Space and Time

The article now has its key definitions: penality as state punishment, inclusive of crime control, and political ideologies as broader or narrower maps for understanding, and acting within, the world. What are the additional parameters of this article? Geographically, the discussion focuses on Western democracies, looking mainly at literature concerned with punishment in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, reference is also made to comparative penal literature (Cavadino & Dignan, 2006; Lacey, 2008; Tonry, 2007), whose arguments have developed in part as a critique to the use of the United States and the United Kingdom and their penal systems as blueprints for all Western democracies and their penal systems (for examples of works criticized on such grounds see Garland, 2001; Wacquant, 2009a), regardless of existing contextual differences (Lacey, 2010).3

In terms of time period, this article engages primarily with analyses of 20th-century penality, and in particular contemporary punishment: that is to say penality as it has developed since the early 1970s. This date is considered a watershed in Western punishment, insofar as it is thought to mark a departure from previously accepted penal paradigms—the accepted understanding of what causes crime, what punishment is about, what the best methods are to achieve its aims. The era has also seen the burgeoning of a new approach to punishment. Though this new approach displays a certain amount of internal contradiction and volatility (O'Malley, 1999), commentators agree that it is characterized by an overall—though not exclusive—punitiveness (Pratt, Brown, Brown, Hallsworth, & Morrison, 2005).4 This term denotes an increase in the severity of punishment, marked by a shift away from penal rehabilitation (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 314) and toward retribution and incapacitation (Hudson, 2003, pp. 36, 54). We have shifted away from punishment as a means to treat and resocialize deviants, and toward punishment as, at best, the delivery of just deserts and, at worst, the retaliatory delivery of pain or even the sheer containment of offenders. Victims of crime have also acquired particular importance in contemporary penal narratives: the abstracted victim has been made into a symbol of contemporary fears (Garland, 2001, pp. 143–144), and has become the representative citizen (see “Critique of Ideology in Neoliberal Times”).

One of the most visible symptoms of this punitiveness is an increase in incarceration rates, as experienced most notably by the United States. US imprisonment rates went from 143 per 100,000 in 1970, to 755 per 100,000 in 2008 (ICPR, 2017; Lacey, 2013, p. 271). Admittedly, the United States is considered exceptional in this respect (Reitz, 2018)—no other Western democracy having sported such remarkably high incarceration rates in the contemporary period. Traveling across the Atlantic to Europe, England and Wales offer a more temperate picture of what punitiveness can look like, with a nearly two-fold increase in incarceration rates between 1970 and 2008, going from 79 per 100,000 to 152 per 100,000 (ICPR, 2017; Lacey, 2013, p. 271).

Of the analyses that have explained why contemporary punishment has veered to punitiveness—and of the analyses that have noted how certain Western democracies have resisted punitiveness—many focus on political changes (Barker, 2009; Lacey, 2008; Miller, 2016; Reiner, 2007; Simon, 2007). Penal evolution has thus been anchored to political developments across and within Western polities, including ideological developments (though political ideologies have not always received explicit attention; see Loader and Sparks’ lamentation to this effect: 2016, p. 315). Contemporary punitiveness has, for example, been linked to the move away from macro-ideologies such as social democracy (Reiner, 2007), and the move toward neoliberalism (Harcourt, 2010; Ramsay, 2012; Wacquant, 2009a).

Debates abound on the exact definition and nature of neoliberalism (see Lacey, 2013 on the use of the term within penology). For the purposes of this essay, neoliberalism is understood as “a particular doctrine” that, since the early 1970s, has become the “guiding principle of economic thought and management” (Harvey, 2005, p. 2).5 It is a “theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong property rights, free market and free trade” (Harvey, 2005, p. 2). Coherent with this vision, the scope for state intervention into human affairs is limited to creating and securing “an institutional framework appropriate to such [economic] practices” (Harvey, 2005, p. 2). Where enacted, the neoliberal vision has entailed deregulation, privatization, and a rolling back of the state “from many areas of social provision” (Harvey, 2005, p. 3). Moreover, in the neoliberal vision, all human actions should be brought within “the domain of the market,” and the social good itself requires a maximization of the “reach and frequency of market transactions” (Harvey, 2005, p. 3).

Significantly for the purposes of this article, neoliberalism can also be understood as thinner political ideology, as well as a set of “policies, practices, and arrangements” (Lacey, 2013, p. 262) that now stand in for the more coherent political visions of the past. As the next section demonstrates, the emphasis on change that we find in penological scholarship—from social democracy to neoliberalism, from macro to thin ideologies—means that a focus on contemporary punishment inevitably carries with it an analysis of punishment and political ideologies as they were prior to 1970.

Tracing the Relationship Between Political Ideology and Penality: The Case of Social Democracy

Social Democracy—What Was It and What Did It Say About Crime and Punishment?

An analysis of social democracy and penality can best illustrate Loader and Sparks’ approach to the study of ideology and punishment. Social democracy was, in Western Europe in particular, one of the predominant political ideologies of the 20th century. There is now relatively ample consensus that “at least in most English-speaking countries,” social democracy has experienced “declining fortunes” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 323).6 So too has penal welfarism, the penal paradigm that dominated for much of the 20th century (Reiner, 2009, p. 9), and that is associated with the social democratic ideology. Building on the authoritative analyses of Robert Reiner and David Garland, social democracy serves as an illustrative case study against which to pit some of Loader and Sparks’ questions on political ideology and penality: What did social democracy say about crime and punishment? What effect did the rise of the criminal question have on the fate of social democracy? The first question asks how social democracy conceptualized “power and limits of authority, the allocation of social goods, and the terms of collective coexistence” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 316), and how this played out in terms of punishment and crime control.

In his text “Beyond Risk: A Lament for Social Democratic Criminology,” Robert Reiner defines social democracy as “a species of socialism [split] between [the] two poles [of] communism and liberalism” and “torn between the powerful pulls of justice and liberty” (Reiner, 2009, p. 9; also Lacey, 2013, p. 265). Used “as a badge by many different political movements,” social democracy set a course between “Soviet communism” on the left and the “liberalism” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the right. Social Democracy is associated with “European mixed economy welfare states and the Rooseveltian New Deal in the United States” (Reiner, 2009, p. 9).

As an ideology, social democracy aimed to achieve “equality through democratic means” (Reiner, 2009, p. 17), advocating “the slow incorporation of all sections of society into” a citizenship that—at least in Great Britain—was understood in Marshall’s formulation as citizenship that was at once “civil, political, and social” (Marshall, 1950, cited in Reiner, 2009, p. 17). The belief that this gradual incorporation was possible reflects the “sense of continuing, if sometimes [. . .] tentative, progress towards equality, liberty, and democracy” that characterized social democratic beliefs. Crucial in this respect was the “substantive historical agent” of social democracy—and the driver of the push toward equality—the working class (Reiner, 2009, p. 18). The working class had emerged, in the early 20th century, “for the first time [. . .] as self-conscious subjects of history,” making demands on behalf of “the mass of working people” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 213). One such demand was that the working class be included within the political community as full members, and it was a facet of the social democratic project that they should be so included.

In Marshall’s conception, “the process of inclusion of all people in a common status with civil political and social rights” was due to them by virtue of their humanity (Reiner, 2010, p. 244). Moreover, this inclusion—which implied “recognition by subjects of each other as enjoying equal status”—was the way of reducing the sting of inequality that industrial capitalism inevitably carried with it (Ramsay, 2006, p. 53). Inclusion into social citizenship in particular would provide a way of reconciling social equality and economic inequality (Ramsay, 2006, p. 58; Reiner, 2010, pp. 248–249).

The state had a key role to play in the creation of this social democratic order: it was an “instrument of justice,” with state intervention as a means to achieve expansion of citizenship (Reiner, 2009, p. 19). Economically, this belief took the form of Keynesian policies and, in Europe, of the creation and expansion of the welfare state. These economic polices underpinned the development of social citizenship: if civil and political citizenship followed from universal suffrage and the formal recognition of all individuals as equals, it was social citizenship that was to ensure the actual conditions that gave substance to equality (Ramsay, 2006, pp. 48–49; Reiner, 2010, p. 249).

Keynesian and welfarist economic policies reflected social democracy’s ontology, that is: “the [. . .] assumptions [it made] about human motivation and about the relationship between individuals and social formations such as political systems.” Key to this ontology was “a recognition of interdependence and the centrality of identity and group membership to human identity and motivation” (Lacey, 2013, p. 261). This recognition logically led to the notion of “reciprocal responsibilities among individuals”; the state was the agent that would create the conditions for these social responsibilities to be met (Lacey, 2013, p. 264). The structural backdrop to the social democratic vision was the prosperity of the so-called “Golden Years: 1950 to 1973” (Garland, 2001, p. 79), with the protracted economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Affluence and economic growth provided “the motor for civil rights [and] a ‘politics of solidarity,’ [and] the basis for the expansion of democracy and increased egalitarianism” (Garland, 2001, p. 81).

In terms of crime and deviance, social democracy yielded a diagnosis of deviance that linked criminal behavior to “economic factors like poverty, inequality, or unemployment” (Reiner, 2009, p. 14). According to Reiner, the link was not conceived of in a mechanistic fashion (e.g., poverty = crime, without further ado), but it rested on the idea that economic factors acted to weaken support for morality, and specifically “concern and respect for others” (Reiner, 2009, p. 14). Reiner identifies Robert Merton’s formulation of anomie theory as the “quintessential expression of social democratic criminology” (Reiner, 2009, p. 8). In Merton’s analysis (1938), it was the lack of fit between people’s aspirations, such as economic wealth, and the (legal) means available for people to achieve these aspirations, that produced “psychopathological personality and/or anti-social conduct, and/or revolutionary activities” (Newburn, 2017, pp. 174–178). Crime was one example of such conduct. A culture of capitalist greed—“the acquisitive [. . .] culture produced by consumerism”—also contributed to crime, insofar as the capitalist culture was itself “anomic [and] demoralizing” (Reiner, 2009, p. 29) and incentivised people to place personal success and self-gratification above solidarity and reciprocal responsibilities.

The link drawn between poverty, deprivation, and crime explains why one of the key social democratic solutions to crime was “greater social provision and [. . .] the opening up of more accessible, legitimate routes to upward mobility.” The underlying idea was that incorporation into citizenship would ensure social order. In this schema “the expansion of prosperity and the provision of social welfare” were to be the cure to deviance (Garland, 2001, p. 43). The two “unquestioned axioms” of penal welfarism were: first, that social reform and increasing economic prosperity would reduce crime; and second, that the state was bound to care for, and not just punish or control, offenders (Garland, 2001, pp. 38–39).7 The latter axiom in particular can be seen to reflect social democracy’s ontological belief in reciprocal responsibilities.

The punishment regime that offenders were subject to once they were processed by the criminal justice system reflected the axioms of penal welfarism. “Care” of offenders took the shape of individualized treatment, with experts assessing deviants’ individual disposition and tailoring responses accordingly. Treatment was designed to “rehabilitate” and “reintegrate” offenders within society, so much so that Garland describes the rehabilitative ideal as the “hegemonic guiding principle” of penal welfarism (2001, p. 35). Such an approach to crime control necessarily required faith in experts’ expertise—their ability to both diagnose the causes of crime and find appropriate individualized remedies to it—and a belief in “science as a positive force” (Reiner, 2009, p. 20).

The idea of treating deviants to restore them to society also required what Reiner calls a “quiet optimism” (2009, p. 18). The optimism here was about the feasibility of re-integrating “delinquents and deviants” (Garland, 2001, p. 44) but also optimism that the social order to which they were being restored was fundamentally just and re-integration was thus desirable (Garland, 2001, p. 44; Melossi, 2008, p. 179). Nested in this assumption—and indeed in the idea of the state as an agent of change—was the further belief in the benign nature of the state, its institutions and its interventions. This statism found its expression in the broader social democratic vision of political order, and not just in the realm of punishment. This should not be taken to imply that social democrats were not aware of the dangers of state power. On the contrary, according to Reiner they remained “acutely aware” of the pitfalls inherent in state power, and consequently demanded that criminal justice agencies be “representative of, and responsive to, working-class concerns” (Reiner, 2009, p. 19).8 This would ensure the legitimacy of the state.

Social Democratic Ideology and Social Democratic Penality: Conceptualizing the Links

Having delineated the broad contours of the social democratic ideology and of social democratic penality, we can tease out the relationship between the two by asking Loader and Sparks’ first set of questions.

What Does Social Democracy Say About Crime?

From a social democratic perspective, crime is the product of inequality and deprivation. Crime must be understood in terms of its deep, root causes. This is both a scientific and a normative claim: a proper diagnosis of offending requires attention to be paid to the root causes of crime to develop effective solutions; but attention to root causes is also a moral imperative in a community premised on inclusion and solidarity rather than on repression and banishment (Reiner, 2010, p. 250).

How Has the Social Democratic Ideology Tried to Shape the Ways in Which Crime Has Been Responded To?

Coherent with its visions of crime causation, social democratic penality is premised on both inclusion and re-inclusion. Inclusion requires broad social policy aimed at expanding economic prosperity, which thereby reduces the incentives toward crime. Re-inclusion requires treating those who nonetheless deviate, identifying their individual needs, and making sure that these are met by penal interventions at one “humane” and effective (Reiner, 2009, p. 17). Such penal interventions should ultimately equip the erstwhile deviant with skills to resume her position in society.

This two-pronged attack eventually reduces crime by removing its structural causes, and by treating the individual pathologies—the “maladjustment” (Garland, 2001, p. 45)—that led to offending in the first place. In this, the response to crime is a modernist response—with its roots in the Enlightenment—committed to social engineering; confident in state and scientific endeavors toward progress; convinced that deviance can be reformed (Garland, 2001, p. 40). The state is essential in this dynamic, as both the author of social policy and—through its criminal justice institutions—as the catalyst for deviants’ personal improvement. In both cases, the state is entrusted with the care of its citizens, both the law-abiding and the deviant.

This understanding of crime and crime control reflects a vision of society as perfectible, but also as a society beset by tensions. In David Garland’s words, the tensions were the expression of “destitution and insecurity,” that is, the inevitable, pathological, expression of an “industrialised, inegalitarian, class society” (2001, p. 45).

Social democratic beliefs, and the policy they informed, reflect the class relations of the post-war years: working class demands for greater inclusion into the political and social compact, and the historically grounded receptiveness of the political class to such demands. Social democratic policy—social and penal—further reflects the fact that the social democratic solution to the pathologies of industrialized capitalism was not a Marxist overthrow of the very same. As seen in Reiner’s definition, social democracy was a “species of socialism” split between communism and liberalism and trying to forge a way forward between unquestioning acceptance and outright overthrow of capitalism. This tension is repesented also in the notion of social citizenship as the tool with which to reconcile—albeit temporarily—equality and inequality (Marshall, 1950, cited in Ramsay 2006, p. 58) The social democratic solution was to improve—living conditions, working conditions, social conditions—and to include—into citizenship civil, political, and social—and thus temper the excesses of capitalism and its side-effects, including deviance. Social policy and criminal justice policy, the welfare state and penal welfarism were, at least in their ideal form, expressions of this ideological vision (Garland, 2001, pp. 44–46).

In sum, an analysis of the works of Reiner and of Garland reveals one possible approach to political ideologies and punishment. This approach is premised on drawing conceptual lines between the mainstays of different political ideologies, and their analysis of, and attitude to, crime and punishment. In particular the approach reveals how ideologies’ conceptions of key aspects of political life—such as power, authority, and collective co-existence—feed into their diagnosis of, and prescription for, crime control. Simplifying greatly, the social democratic ideology legitimized state power and authority, on the basis that these be deployed in the construction of a political collectivity premised on social solidarity and common humanity. Collective co-existence was based on this social compact, which was at once normatively desirable and pragmatically necessary. It was necessary in light of human interdpendence and in light of the Second World War’s stark demonstration of what a breakdown of co-existence could lead to.

However, the social democratic order was also beset by an internal tension—between its capitalist basis and its egalitarian aspirations—which needed to be managed. Social democratic penality reflected these beliefs and concerns: for example in its understanding of crime as premised on economic inequality, and in devising social and penal policy that would construct and safeguard collective co-existence.

Social Democracy: Standing the Test of Crime

From the 1970s onward, social democracy and social democratic criminology began to decline. There is an abundance of analyses, including in the literature on punishment, that have tried to explain why this decline occurred. In his account of “the displacement of the social democratic perspective” from criminology, Reiner lists the following as causes contributing to the decline: trends in crime and disorder; politicization of law and order; changes in public discourse; policy shifts; socio-economic and cultural change (2009, pp. 22–27). Continuing to build on Loader and Sparks, this section focuses on one of these contributing factors, which is of direct relevance to penality: trends in crime and disorder. The section asks, “How did the social democratic ideology stand the test of crime?” This question breaks down into two further queries: How did crime change during the heyday of social democracy? What were the implications for the main claims of social democracy in matters of penality?

There are well known difficulties in measuring crime (e.g., Maguire & McVie, 2017; Reiner, 2010, p. 252), whether we are looking within one nation or comparing across nations (Gallo, Lacey, & Soskice, 2018). However, we can gauge general trends in crime for the post-war years. Focusing on Britain we find:

The most apparent trend is the spectacular rise in recorded crime since the late 1950s. In the early 1950s, the police recorded less than half a million offences per annum. By the mid 1970s, this had risen to 2 million. The 1980s showed even more staggering rises, with recorded crime peaking in 1992 at over 5.5 million. By 1997, recorded crime had fallen back to 4.5 million. Major counting rule changes introduced in 1998 and 2002 make comparison of the subsequent figures especially fraught, but according to the new rules (which undoubtedly exaggerate the increase), just under 6 million offences were recorded by the police for 2003–2004. This has now fallen back again to 4.95 million in 2007–2008.

(Reiner, 2010, p. 253)

Since the post-war years we have therefore seen a period of sustained increase in recorded crime, followed by something of a fluctuation and then a drop in more recent years. Note that victimization data—the erstwhile British Crime Survey and now Crime Survey for England and Wales—do “[suggest] a more complex picture” (Reiner, 2010, pp. 253, also 254–255).

The initial rise in recorded crime, and indeed in victimization during the 1980s and 1990s, was sided by an increased awareness and attendant fear of crime. The link between crime and fear of crime is complex, and it has been argued that fear of has progressed independently of crime trends (Garland, 2001, p. 106; though see Lacey, Soskice, & Hope, 2018; Miller, 2016)—so much so, that we have now “normalized” (Reiner, 2010, p. 258) the idea of living in what Garland has termed “high crime societies” (2001).9

“Normal social fact” as crime may have become, it still required interpretation: the problem of crime began to be recast as a problem of “law and order” and if, in the immediate post-war decades, there had been cross-partisan consensus regarding penal welfarism (Garland, 2001, p. 37), by the 1990s in both United States and England and Wales there came to be a “shared [political] commitment to toughness” (Reiner, 2009, p. 24). The solution to crime was harsher, more decisive penal action. Moreover, though interest in the “causes of crime” was still present in some political narratives, overall “the old concerns of social democratic criminology, the structural sources of crime, such as inequality and unemployment” disappeared from view (Reiner, 2009, p. 24).10

Political, social, and economic developments were key in this respect: concerns with inequality and unemployment were receding even outside the penal sphere. Changes in the nature of employment—with the economic crisis of the 1970s and the collapse of Fordism—made it less plausible to argue that unemployment and inequality could be overcome.11 Policy shifted from Keynesian economics to neoliberal economics, and with it so did the imperatives around which economic policy was organized. Ben Jackson describes the rise of a “new right” that “portrayed the [economic] crisis of the 1970s as the product of clumsy Keynesian intervention in the economy [. . .].” This “new right” was to “set the political agenda for the three decades after the 1980s” (Jackson, 2013, p. 358). It was strengthened by its association with the theories of neoliberal thinkers such as F. A. Hayek, whose “critique of social democracy sought to reinstate the market rather than politics as the primary arbiter of human fate” (Jackson, 2013, p. 359). With the growing influence of such economic theories, it became less palatable to argue for a politics of inclusion and full employment. The combination of sociological and economic shifts, and novel political narratives, came to shake social democratic certainties: the welfare state and its drive to redistribution; the primacy of state intervention into human affairs; the inevitability of progress in light of such intervention.

The exact import of crime in the decline of social democracy remains a matter for debate: just how much did the incidence and interpretation of crime contribute to social democracy’s demise, and how much is it a representative, but not exclusive, issue that undermined the ideology’s legitimacy? Loader and Sparks’ second set of questions is thus particularly difficult to answer and is perhaps susceptible to doctrinal bias: for example, the criminologist may see crime as a primary factor in the decline of social democracy, where an economist would see economic evolution as the primary driver of change. However, to the extent that crime was seen as a key pathology of industrial capitalism, and inclusion and re-inclusion as the social democratic solution to this pathology, then the growth of crime in times of expanding affluence came to cast doubts on the legitimacy of the social democratic narrative of human progress. In this sense, social democracy—in the changing historical context of the contemporary era—is a political ideology that did not withstand the test of crime.

Analyzing the literature that discusses social democracy and penality, there is another way of drawing links between the social democratic demise and the issue of crime. This approach does not require any particular assumption about the causal prominence of crime. It is possible to identify those aspects of the social democratic ideology that were crucial to social democratic penality and to note how their passing threatened the foundations of the social democratic recipe for crime control. For example, the rise of the new right and neoliberalism cast doubt on the welfare state and its drive to redistribution; on the primacy of state intervention into human affairs; on the inevitability of progress in light of such intervention. As well as being key features of the social democratic vision, these were also pillars of the social democratic conception of crime control: welfare as the means toward inclusive citizenship and a disincentive to offending; citizens—law-abiding or offenders—as wards of the state; crime as a social pathology fated to recede as affluence increased and societies thrived. As the ideological landscape changed, so did the penal axioms that sprung forth from political ideologies: as social democracy wavered, so did social democratic penality.12 Here, crime is not a cause of the decline of social democracy; rather, social democratic penality is bound up with social democracy tout court, so that the declining fate of the former inevitably entailed the decline of the latter.

In sum: Reiner’s and Garland’s analyses also point to a second key connection between political ideologies and penality. Here, the link is between the question of crime and the legitimacy of different ideological claims: how did increasing levels and perceptions of crime come to undermine the very foundations of the social democratic vision of social inclusion and human progress, according to which improved economic conditions would lead to a drop in crime? The question can also be inverted, to ask whether social democratic claims, having had to contend with changing historical conditions and changing political narratives, did not lose sway overall, and with them the social democratic understanding of crime. As axiomatic social democratic beliefs weakened, did the analysis of crime that was built around them also (and inevitably) weaken?

Admittedly, the analysis of social democracy’s demise is susceptible to criticism. With a hint of polemic Reiner notes: “Most accounts of contemporary criminal justice assume that social democracy is dead [. . .] The ‘social’ has been buried without much of an inquest on why or how it died, or indeed whether it is really dead or just dormant.” (Reiner, 2009, p. 32). This suggests that whatever the fate of the social democratic ideology, scholars and analysts should not be so quick to discard the social democratic diagnosis of crime causation. According to Reiner, this diagnosis, with its emphasis on the criminogenic nature of economic deprivation and consumerism, was not proven wrong. In fact, it can serve as a means to understand crime and punishment in the contemporary era, as “neo-liberalism has [. . .] exacerbated the pressures leading to crime.” It has also “undermined the legal and ethical constraints aimed at holding individuals and corporations to socially responsible practices,” and has pushed the state to cast off those tools—such as economic regulation—that could temper capitalism’s criminogenic effects (Reiner, 2009, p. 38). So, Reiner argues, if the heyday of social democracy may have passed, social democratic analyses of crime remain valid, whether or not they have a receptive audience.

Analyses of the demise of social democracy, and penal welfarism, have also invited critique from the comparative camp: to the extent that they generalize outward from the United States and the United Kingdom, theoretical explorations gloss over differences that persist across contexts, both at the penal level and at the level of policies typically associated with social democracy.13 For example, social democratic ideas have fared better in nations such as Germany and, more notably, the Scandinavian countries (Cavadino & Dignan, 2006; Lacey, 2008; Lappi-Seppala, 2008). So much so that the latter are referred to as “exceptional” penal cases, where low imprisonment rates and humane prison conditions express the persistent influence of the universalism of Scandinavian welfare states (Pratt, 2008a, 2008b; for the darker side of “Nordic exceptionalism,” see Barker, 2012).14

The future survival of the social democratic economic model and its penal corollary in such Western democracies is a live issue in contemporary penal debate: to what extent will the residual social democratic or socially democratic inspired nations resist the drive to punitiveness? Serious doubts on the revival and survival of social democracy persist, and they reflect the continuing influence of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the political configuration that is thought to have displaced social democracy in the English-speaking world if not, as Loïc Wacquant argues (2009a, 2009b; also Reiner, 2010), across Western democracies (contra, see Lacey, 2010).

Critique of Ideology in Neoliberal Times

This section examines the third possible approach to the question of political ideology and penality, namely critique of ideology. To do so, it focuses on literature that has applied this approach to contemporary UK criminal law and penality, in particular the work of Peter Ramsay (2011, 2012, 2014, 2016). Insofar as it builds on more traditional accounts of ideology critique—such as the work of Evgeny Pashukanis (1987; Garland, 1990, ch. 5) and, more recently, Alan Norrie (1991)—Ramsay’s work is a useful case study with which to investigate both the history of the approach, and its application to the contemporary scene. To the extent that this scene includes the ascendancy of neoliberalism, a focus on this case study also links to the broader question of how penality has changed as political ideologies have evolved: from social democracy to neoliberalism, from macro-ideologies to thin ideologies.

A note is in order on the different ways in which ideology features in this section, insofar as we are now going beyond the definition of ideology provided in “Definitions: Political Ideologies and Penality.” Ramsay’s work is a “critique of ideology,” where the term ideology now denotes the “ruling ideas of the present” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 211); these ideas are being unmasked in Ramsay’s analysis. The section also deals with changes in the political ideological landscape that constitute the backdrop for the penal changes that Ramsay discusses. The rise of neoliberalism is once again the context and historical precondition for contemporary penal evolution.

Starting with the notion of critique of ideology, the roots of this method are found in Marxist theory, according to which ideology is “a set of ideas which govern people’s perception of the world” (Hudson, 2003, p. 122). In particular, this is a perception of the world that facilitates existing relations of production within capitalist economies. As such it benefits those who already profit from existing relations of production, namely the capitalist class. The unequal distribution of benefits within capitalist economies is masked by ideology insofar as ‘the filtering of interests through ideology permits them to be represented as if they were [. . .] claims with universal rational validity (Freeden, 2003, p. 6). Otherwise said, the ideas of the capitalist class are assumed to be universal and “the ideas of society as a whole” (Hudson, 2003). These ideas become hegemonic and are accepted by the population at large, including the “masses” who consequently “regard their own assent”—to such ideas and the reality they sustain—as “spontaneous” (Freeden, 2003, p. 20, on Gramsci; Gramsci, Hoare, & Newell-Smith, 1971). The law itself plays a role in maintaining this state of affairs: the law is, in the terms of Louis Althusser (1971) an “ideological state apparatus” which, together with “the education system, the family and the mass media, [produces] the categories of thought necessary to capitalism” (Hudson, 2003, p. 123; see also Melossi & Pavarini, 2018, pp. 3, 10). Law and punishment together “express values of equality and solidarity” and thus legitimize the idea that the state “is ruling in the interest of all,” rather than pursuing narrower class interests (Hudson, 2003, p. 122; Garland, 1990, p. 130; Hay, Linebaugh, Rule, Thompson, & Winslow, 1975). But the law is a specifically repressive state apparatus: “when hegemony breaks down, when industrial or political dissent, or ‘crime’ occurs” it can always rely on punishment as a coercive back up (Hudson, 2003, p. 123).

Ideology therefore masks aspects of reality, disguising the particular as the universal, and casting law as universally beneficial regardless of its more stratified application. It is the task of critique of ideology to unmask what is being concealed, and to historicize what appears to be natural and immutable. This approach does not discard ideologies as falsehoods; rather, it reveals them to be partial truths and identifies the reasons behind this partiality. Ideological critique, as applied to the law and penality—to legal doctrines, to penal rationales, to practices of punishment—therefore establishes a side of social reality that they otherwise obscure (Ramsay, 2014, p. 212; also Norrie, 1991: 12).

Critique of ideology was the approach adopted by the Russian jurist Evgeny Pashukanis in his early 20th-century analysis of the form of the penal law (Garland, 1990, ch 5; Pashukanis, 1987; Ramsay, 2014). As Garland explains, according to Pashukanis, “law [. . .] gives legal expression to a specific form of economic relations in a way which both legitimises and facilitates the latter” (Garland, 1990, p. 112). In particular, the law reflects “capitalist commodity exchange,” and as such its subjects are the subjects of the commodity exchange. They are imagined as “isolated” and “egotistic,” as “ideal property owners” who interact in terms of “contract, ownership, and exchange” (Garland, 1990, p. 112).

Criminal law and punishment too give legal expression to this form of economic relations. This is most visible where punishment takes the form of monetary fines, but it is also the premise for punishment by imprisonment. Imprisonment places a price on time—the loss of which is therefore a deprivation for the offender—in the same way that working time is priced in wage labor (Hudson, 2003, p. 119). The axioms of commodity exchange are then crystalized in the subject of criminal law, who bears “all the attributes of free will, responsibility, and hedonistic psychology which the standard bourgeois individual is deemed to possess” no matter how distant this depiction may be from reality. Consequently, “even the most destitute [. . .] victims of market society are deemed to be free and equal and in control of their own destinies” (Garland, 1990, p. 112; Ramsay, 2014, p. 206). Pashukanis therefore presents us with a critique of criminal law’s formal equality, as enshrined in its imagined, abstract, legal subject.15

Building on Pashukanis’ fundamental approach, Peter Ramsay offers a critique of ideology for contemporary criminal law. Ramsay is primarily discussing UK criminal law,16 particularly as it developed from the 1990s onwards. However, his insights are intended to have broader reach, and there is in fact an overlap between Ramsay’s conclusions on the state of politics and penality and the work of authors writing from the American perspective (see “Out With Politics, In With Crime? Post-Ideology, Thin Ideologies, and Penality” for parallels with Simon, 2007). Although he adopts Pashukanis’ methodological approach, Ramsay uses it to explore what he characterizes as a fundamental change in the content of the criminal law. Criminal law is now being used to punish dangerous individuals (Ramsay, 2014, p. 200), and this is a shift away from the traditional rational for such laws:

In recent years, many new offences have been enacted in the UK that threaten punishment for doing something that proves that the person doing it is a dangerous person, as opposed to threatening punishment for doing something that is intrinsically dangerous of harmful.

(Ramsay, 2014, p. 201)

Pertinent examples of such a trend include offences that criminalize individuals where they cause, or are likely to cause, others “harassment, alarm, or distress,” as with the breach of so-called Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs) or the Criminal Behavior Orders that have replaced them.17 Similarly, UK law now “also [. . .] contains many ‘pre-inchoate’ offences that prohibit conduct [. . .] not in itself dangerous but [. . .] remotely connected to another criminal harm in a way that identifies the subject who commits it as a dangerous subject” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 202). These offences are to be distinguished from inchoate offences, such as attempts, because while an attempt in English law requires an act that is “more than merely preparatory” to the commission of the full offence (s.1.1, Criminal Attempts Act, 1981), pre-inchoate offences criminalize behavior that is merely preparatory if committed with the relevant state of mind (see here s. 5 of the Terrorism Act, 2006).18

These offences of dangerousness are worthy targets for a critique of ideology, insofar as they institutionalize the axioms of the political theories that have enjoyed pride of place in contemporary UK politics (Ramsay, 2012, p. 84).19 Ideological critique therefore does not just shed light on the nature of the offenses themselves, but also sheds light on the political reality that they derive from, contribute to, and partially occult. Ultimately, such ideological critique hopes to mobilize the ideational freedom required to change the political reality that these offences represent and bolster. Specifically, Ramsay argues, ideological critique is “essential [. . .] for anyone who would seek to abolish the actuality that is the continuing necessity of penal repression” (2014, p. 211). In this sense, his concerns can be connected to the broader concerns with penal expansion and its implications for democracy, that underpin so much of the scholarship on contemporary punishment, focused as it is on understanding the causes of “punitiveness” and increasing incarceration (see “The Parameters of the Discussion: Space and Time”).

In his monograph The Insecurity State (2012), Ramsay gives a detailed deconstruction of contemporary UK criminal laws, with a particular focus on anti-social behavior orders and their progeny. Ramsay’s argument is that that such laws give legal form to what he terms the “ideology of vulnerable autonomy” (2012, ch. 5) the essence of which is that “normal, representative citizens [are constructed] as vulnerable in their interdependence, and, therefore, required to be active in their attention to others’ needs for reassurance” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 84, emphasis added). A direct line can be traced between this assumption and the political theories that have held sway in contemporary UK politics: “the Third Way, communitarianism, neoliberalism, and civic conservatism” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 84). According to Ramsay, the idea of vulnerable autonomy is to be found, in some form, in all such theories. The idea follows from an understanding of autonomy as premised on “an intersubjective process of mutual recognition of each other’s worth” (2012, p. 84). This mutual recognition is what ensures the integrity of our self-respect, self-esteem, and self-trust, all of which are the essential pre-conditions to our autonomy (Anderson & Honneth, 2005, quoted in Ramsay, 2012, p. 82). If it is mutual recognition that we require, we are logically also vulnerable to its absence. This absence is evidenced where others neglect our “need for reassurance.” Existing laws try to police this neglect, and thus enshrine what Ramsay, (2012) calls a “right to security”.

Neoliberalism is among the theories discussed by Ramsay. The term—“often relied on but rarely specified” (Lacey, 2013, p. 261)—is used by Ramsay to denote the political outlook “pioneered by Hayek” and whose influence in the United Kingdom (and the United States) is “uncontested, especially in economic policy.” Indeed, mainstream political parties have accepted the neoliberal axiom of the “superiority of market mechanisms over direct state provisions of goods and services” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 86).

How does neoliberalism, thus defined, connect to vulnerable autonomy? The subject of neoliberalism is the subject of market relations and, as such, is a subject that is “left vulnerable to the impersonal and seemingly irrational forces of the market” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 97). According to neoliberal theorists, this vulnerability to the market is preferable to submission to the “uncontrollable and arbitrary power of other men” (Hayek, 2001, p. 152, quoted in Ramsay, 2012, p. 97). It nonetheless remains a form of submission, and the “freedom” of neoliberalism—from “the arbitrary despotism of other people” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 97)—is thus based on submission—albeit to the market. Inevitably this “freedom based on submission” creates a tension of which Hayek is, in fact, aware, and which he thought should be managed by relying on religious faith and tradition (Ramsay, 2012, p. 97). However, Hayek’s recipe is incompatible with historical developments: “the moral pluralism” developed in the post-war years, enshrined in legislation and structurally rooted in the welfare state, has thwarted the possibility of relying on “tradition” to keep order in the midst of the insecurity that derives from our submission to the market (Ramsay, 2012, p. 101). The consequence of this state of affairs is that nothing stands in the way of others’ dogged pursuit of their self-fulfilment. Consequently, nothing ensures that others will indeed recognize our worth—as required by our autonomy—should this run counter to their own self-interest. The result is an untrammelled sense of vulnerability: an awareness of our interdependence, coupled with an awareness of the vulnerability that this interdependence creates in a world dominated by market mechanisms.

Note here the resonance with Reiner’s account of the social democratic diagnosis of unrestrained capitalist culture as anomic and demoralizing. According to Reiner, during the heyday of the social democratic era, what had tempered these baser impulses was the social democratic ideology: the commitment to inclusion into universal citizenship, indeed the idea of universal citizenship itself. A similar, if broader, point is made by Ramsay in his account of the rise of neoliberalism. Prior to the Second World War, Ramsay explains, the West had seen the rise of new ideologies which were critical of classical liberalism and its individualist conception of subject-hood, and which were premised on the idea of collective subjects “as the source of political legitimacy” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 213). These ideologies, such as “socialism and communism, reformist social democracy, and social [democracy],” provided the ideological basis for the developing workers’ mass parties. Collectivity was also at the basis of the “mass patriotic conservative parties of various types” that elites developed in response to workers’ political organization (Ramsay, 2014, p. 212). After 1945, capital and labor compromised, and settled on “the ideology of social liberalism: the nation state as a democratic welfare state” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 213; see “Tracing the Relationship Between Political Ideology and Penality: The Case of Social Democracy”). All these different ideologies, and their compromise settlement, found their roots in the rise of the working class “as self-conscious political subjects of history”; subjects that they either represented or reacted to (Ramsay, 2014, p. 213). When the working class was defeated in the struggles of the 1970s and 1980s (see also Melossi & Pavarini, 2018, p. 7), these collectivist ideologies were deprived of their raison d’être, of their primary referent, and of political traction. As they lost political traction, so did the notion of the “collectivity” that they had aimed to represent (Ramsay, 2014, p. 213). Ramsay draws out the stark implications of this disappearance:

As the common interests asserted by the old collectivist ideologies waned, subjects were reconstructed ideologically as systematically vulnerable to others’ free will, engendering our current political climate of systematic suspicion about others’ unregulated wills. (2014, p. 214)

Of the “ontology” of social democracy, for example, only human interdependence is left. By contrast, the belief that humanity is part of a “common civilization” is now replaced by the belief that contemporary societies in fact house “self-fulfilling individuals,” whose primary duty is to their own selves. In such societies, social cohesion is under constant threat. In this revised context, interdependence is the interdependence of the parties to a contract, and not the interdependence of fellow human beings united by the fact of their shared humanity.

If individuals cannot believe that they belong to a collectivity united by common interest, how are they then to go about their daily business without fear? It is here that the criminal law steps in, with its offences that criminalize dangerousness and institutionalize individuals’ “right to security.” Here the criminal law aims to manufacture, by coercion or threat of coercion, the social cohesion that once followed from collectivist ideologies (Ramsay, 2014, p. 214).

According to Ramsay, this is an endeavor doomed to fail. An expanding criminal law is a poor substitute for solidarity and can only reinforce insecurity, insofar as it teaches that peaceful co-existence needs to be imposed by the state onto its subjects (Ramsay, 2014, p. 214). Crucially, the attempt to protect (everyone’s) “vulnerable autonomy” by penal means is also an attempt premised on an ideological sleight of hand. What the ideology of vulnerable autonomy conceals is that individuals are not all equally vulnerable, particularly where the vulnerability is to market mechanisms. Wealth matters, and an individual who knows “that she possesses sufficient property to protect herself against the unfathomable changes wrought by the market” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 98) will not feel her autonomy to be quite as vulnerable as the prevailing political narratives imply.

The law’s portrayal of reality is thus a partial representation, even though it is presented as a representation with universal validity: it is an example of ideology. A similar observation can be made in relation to vulnerability understood as victimization: prevailing political narratives conflate victimhood and citizenship and make the victim of crime the representative political subject of contemporary times (Garland, 2001; Simon, 2007, ch. 3). Yet the truth is that not everyone is equally likely to be a crime victim, as victimization too is linked to socio-demographic conditions. Criminal laws and penal policies that fail to acknowledge this fact, and that are justified on the basis of our equal susceptibility to victimization, obscure the differential distribution of “vulnerability” (Ramsay, 2012, p. 104): this too is ideology.

What offences of dangerousness further obscure is “the state’s diminished political authority” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 214). According to Ramsay, the state’s increased power to punish, as represented by the expansion of criminal law, is not a sign of state might. Rather, it is a sign of the waning political authority of the state (see also Garland, 2001) and of the fragility of the existing social order. This becomes apparent where criminal laws elide citizenship and victimhood. Indeed, by institutionalizing “the victim as the representative subject of law,” the criminal laws that Ramsay analyzes imagine their subject to be an individual who has actually “experienced the state’s failure to prevent criminal violations of civil order,” as victims have. The representative subject of law is therefore one who has good “reason to doubt the state’s claim to maintain civil peace and civil order” (Ramsay, 2014, p. 214).

In adopting victims as its representative subjects, the criminal law simultaneously represents the state’s ultimate power over its citizens and the state’s reduced political authority. By emphasising the coercive power of the state, it masks the state’s inability to produce consensus and compliance by democratic political means. Moreover, where criminal law sets itself out as the remedy to our feelings of vulnerability, it pushes us to seek solutions in the wrong place, pushing us toward punishment rather than politics. This is the final ideological trick of vulnerable autonomy: its disempowering function. By constructing its subjects as needing the state to protect them from (inevitably selfish) others, it obscures the “imaginative possibilities” of collective political action (Ramsay, 2014, p. 214), including the possibility of compelling political alternatives to neoliberalism.

In sum, an analysis of Peter Ramsay’s work reveals an additional connection between ideologies and penality: arguing from a political, normative position, it is possible to critique criminal law and penal institutes as ideology, that is to say as a set of ideas that partially reveals and partially obscures existing power relations. In particular, Ramsay’s contemporary critique of ideology uses UK criminal law to illustrate how such laws legitimize the idea of “vulnerable autonomy”; the notion that we are all vulnerable to the inevitable pursuit of self-fulfilment by others, the solutions for which are to be found in criminal law and state punishment. Such offenses conceal both the unequal distribution of vulnerability and its contingent roots: namely, the political acceptance of the superiority of market relations. Here the historical change in the fate of political ideologies is key, as the rise of vulnerable autonomy follows from, and traces, the move away from the collectivist ideologies of the past and the move toward the unquestioned predominance of neoliberalism.20

Out With Politics, In With Crime? Post-Ideology, Thin Ideologies, and Penality

Ramsay’s critique of ideology can be seen as relating to yet another conceptual connection between political ideologies and penality. This is the idea of the demise of political ideologies, and their replacement by crime and punishment (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 317). The argument put forward by Ramsay can indeed be interpreted as a narrative of Western political decline, which the state can only meet by offering “more police, greater imprisonment, new laws, more criminal offences” (Gallo, 2017, pp. 461–462; Loader, 2008, p. 405). Parallels can also be drawn with Jonathan Simon’s account of contemporary US punishment. In his Governing Through Crime (2007), Simon notes that, in the United States, crime governance has become the predominant form of governance, transcending its traditional boundaries to contaminate all fields of public life, including domestic relations, schools, and the workplace. According to Loader, Simon’s account is one that speaks of a “world no longer enchanted and animated by political vision(s)” in which “security” (from crime) “provides the organising political fantasy of societies who have otherwise abandoned belief in utopias” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 317). Like Ramsay, Simon gives us a narrative of the contemporary “anti-politics of crime” (Loader, 2008).

Such narratives—and in particular Ramsay’s—find their roots in the sociological analyses of Colin Crouch and Peter Mair, and their accounts of “post-democracy” (Crouch, 2004) and “the hollowing out of Western democracies” (Mair, 2013). The scenario derived from a cumulative reading of Mair and Crouch tells us that politics has ceased to be “a clash of big ideas,” and has become “primarily a contest about how to manage a market economy.” Voters are no longer motivated by ideological belonging or commitment; they vote merely as a “matter of periodically choosing political brands” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 316). Western democracies have therefore transitioned into a “post-ideological” era, where crime and punishment enjoy pride of place, having filled the vacuum left by erstwhile political ideas.

Loader and Sparks voice their objection to such a narrative: worried by the idea of “post-ideology” and in particular by claims that politics should be post-ideological, they argue that what appears as “post-ideology” is in fact neoliberalism:

the “post-ideological” features of political life are best interpreted as symptoms of the dominance and morphing into orthodoxy of one particular ideology [. . .] claims about the advent of post-ideological politics tend to obscure [. . .] the ascendancy of neoliberal rule and its transition into a set of common-sense nostrums about the “imperative” to produce and sustain a constrained, market-friendly form of democratic politics.

(Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 316)

When making this claim, Loader and Sparks are closer to Ramsay, and even Crouch and Mair, than they perhaps acknowledge. Indeed, their argument that “claims about the advent of post ideology [. . .] obscure” the ascendancy of neoliberalism, contains echoes of ideological critique that, as articulated by Ramsay, requires shedding light precisely on such obfuscation. Similarly, their concerns about the effects of a neoliberal common sense (Wacquant, 2009a) on democratic politics, and thence penality, mirror the normative concerns that underpin Crouch’s and Mair’s work.

In critiquing the idea of “post-ideology” and “anti-politics” Loader and Sparks are particularly concerned with resisting the tendency toward despair that contemporary penologists often succumb to (O'Malley, 2000; Zedner, 2002). This is why, in response to Reiner’s lament for the passing of social democracy, they suggest that we go “beyond lamentation,” and stop assuming that “all that is good and valuable lies in the past” (Loader & Sparks, 2012, p. 17). Their focus here is less on political ideologies themselves and more on the politics of crime control. In relation to the latter, Loader and Sparks argue for a more purposive approach to penality. Their aim is to work toward what they call “a better politics of crime” (Loader & Sparks, 2010); a more democratic approach to penality; one in which society’s responses to crime are premised on “reflexive coherence” and principled, but democratic, evaluation of penal policy (Loader, 2010, p. 351).

According to Loader and Sparks, crime governance—and by extension penality—is an inescapably political issue. Building on Freeden, they refuse the idea that social life could be rid of ideology (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 319). On the contrary, Loader and Sparks advocate for a “political mode of evaluation” of penality, “one that seeks to attend closely to the ideological claims and disputes that implicitly or expressly shape public responses to crime” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 320). As seen, this method requires an appraisal of different political ideologies and their claims concerning crime and punishment.

Loader and Sparks’ approach thus leads back, full circle, to the methodology analyzed in the introduction: one that breaks down the key assumptions that are being made by extant political ideologies about “order, authority, legitimacy, justice, democracy, citizenship, freedom, rights, obligations”; and a method that investigates how such assumptions play out “when crime is constructed and acted upon” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 320). However, there are now two new elements to be added to an analysis of Loader and Sparks’ methodology. First is the fact that the authors are advocating a political reappraisal of ideologies in the interest of improving upon existing approaches to crime control. This means that they combine the two questions: “What are the constitutive concepts and central claims of each [ideology]?” and “To what visions of good crime governance [. . .] are their proponents committed?” with a third question: “How do [ideologies] understand—and what resources can they offer to—the project of developing democratically legitimate practices of crime control?” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 99). Second, it is important to note that, although the methodology is the same, the substance and the heft of the political ideologies under investigation have changed. Even without conceding that the age is “post-ideological,” it is possible to concede that macro-ideologies have been displaced by thin ideologies.

Such thin ideologies “have made their incursions into the [penal] field” (Loader & Sparks, 2016, p. 323), and Loader and Sparks’ investigation of two contemporary thin ideologies: populism and technocracy (2017). Though nominally opposed, both are in fact articulations of the contemporary Western crisis of politics. They are two “disfigurements” of democracy (Urbinati, 2014), characterized by their “neglect of the normative force of democratic procedures” in policy formation, including the formation of penal policy (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 99). These thin ideologies are of particular interest to scholars of punishment because they have their own specifically penal expressions: penal populism (Bottoms, 1995) and epistemic crime control (Loader & Sparks, 2016, 2017).

Loader and Sparks draw parallels between both sets of ideologies: populism and penal populism and technocracy and epistemic crime control. Reviewing the literature on populism, they note how populism speaks for “the people”—an imagined and homogeneous entity—and pits them against a “malign and self-interested elite” whose actions stand in the way of popular sovereignty understood as the expression and enactment of a “general will,” which is both “unified and transparent.” Moreover, populism puts forth a “binary worldview” divided into “friends” and “enemies” that carries with it a highly emotive political discourse (Loader & Sparks, 2017, pp. 100–101). These features are mirrored in penal populism: in the vilification of “liberal-minded, expert-led criminal justice”; in the opposition to the very existence of “expertise” in criminal justice and the complexity that such expertise might be called on to resolve; in championing the claims of common sense and of “those groups excluded from influencing criminal justice by bureaucratic and professional elites.” And of course, in the idea of “friends” and “enemies”; “us” and “them”; sentiment and affect versus rationality; and the insistence that crime is “properly emotive,” and punishment “inherently moral”(Loader & Sparks, 2017, pp. 102–103).

By contrast, technocracy insists on the use of “value-free objective criteria for making decisions” and creating “‘depoliticised solutions’ to public problems.” It argues that, if decision making is left to experts, then decisions will be substantively better than if they were left to politicians: expertise should therefore replace political conflict (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 106). Epistemic crime control provides the penal face of the technocratic ideology. Like technocracy, epistemic crime control is characterized by “the promotion of expert calculation and technique as ways of delivering better crime prevention and penal policy outcomes” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 106). How to achieve this aim depends on which variant of epistemic crime control one adopts. One variant argues that public opinion should be improved—by making it better informed, more pondered—before it is allowed to influence penality (Loader & Sparks, 2017, pp. 106–107). A second variant argues in favor of insulating institutions of penal policy formation from both public opinion and—especially in the United Kingdom and the United States—from a reactive, cynical politicization of law and order (Lacey, 2008; Loader & Sparks, 2017, pp. 108–109; Petitt, 2002). In the absence of such buffers between penal policy and penal populism, the argument runs, western polities will be forever trapped in a law and order “arms race” (Lacey, 2008; Lacey et al., 2018), where each political formation tries to best the other in who can be more punitive. A third variant of epistemic crime control then emphasizes the need to “ground policy and practice in [a solid] evidence base” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 109). Building on practices employed in the medical field, this variant proposes: “to invest in and spread the use of methodologies that can most readily extend the reach of valid knowledge about what works [. . .] to build much closer working relations between evaluators and police and criminal justice practitioners [. . .] to create expert institutions to assemble, assess, and disseminate reliable evidence about what works.” This approach should facilitate the production of “best practice guidance” that can then be used in the formation and delivery of penal policy (Loader & Sparks, 2017, pp. 109–110).

Without needing to delve further into the details of either penal populism or epistemic crime control, Loader and Sparks’ discussion can be used to emphasize how their approach to political ideologies and penality differs from both Reiner’s and Ramsay’s approaches. All four authors are concerned with tracing the link between ideology and penality; all are concerned with identifying the key components of political ideologies and how they play out in the penal sphere; all are concerned with the way in which penal polices and practice legitimize extant political ideologies. However, insofar as Loader and Sparks are looking forward, not backward—trying to construct a better politics of crime, rather than decry the passing of the better politics of crime—their approach is more hopeful than Reiner’s. And insofar as they are concerned with “revealing and decoding” existing ideologies, in the hope of mining them for possible resources for a “better politics of crime,” their approach is less critical than Ramsay’s. Thus, when Loader and Sparks analyze populism and technocracy, their interest is neither in “trashing [them] as approaches to crime control, nor [in championing] them” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 99). They are neither concerned with identifying them as a poor substitute for a social democratic criminology, nor with characterizing them as the expression of obscured power imbalances. Their interest lies instead in understanding the ideologies under consideration, understanding what they are saying—about citizens, state, and political authority—when they talk about penality; and understanding what they offer to a possible reform of Western punishment.

This is why, when looking at penal populism, Loader and Sparks do not simply discard it as the dangerous face of contemporary penal politics. Rather, they try and identify useful features within this thin ideology. For example, penal populism serves as a reminder that democracy’s failures need to be taken seriously, without nonetheless losing sight of populism’s “anti-liberal commitments” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 104, referencing Canovan, 2005, pp. 83–90). Penal populism prevents easy or automatic assumptions about the illegitimacy of popular concerns about crime and punishment (see also Miller, 2016): it thus incentivizes politicians to get closer to “the suffering of ordinary citizens” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 104). Yet, concerns with its possible undemocratic articulations, also mean that neither scholars, nor politicians, nor policy makers can take for granted that popular concerns should or can be uncritically absorbed into penal policy.

This links to the second positive feature to be found in, and extracted from, penal populism: the need to consider how exactly community sentiment should be twinned up with professional expertise in the making of penal policy (Loader & Sparks, 2017, pp. 104–105). What are the best available methods to include citizen concerns in policy making? For its own part, epistemic crime control adds to the debate on a “better politics of crime” by reinforcing the claim that truth and knowledge ought to be the basis for (better) penal policy. This need not be just a question of best practice, delegation to expertise, and insulation from public opinion. Rather, “the promotion of episteme can also take on a redemptive quality; part and parcel of a vision of government engaged in a recurring process of innovation, experimental testing, and collective learning” (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 110; Sherman, 2009).

Yet, at the end of all this, populism and technocracy still leave certain questions unanswered. Some questions derive from the practical difficulties in implementing even the rosier versions of their visions: for example, how does one remove “law and order” from the fray of reactionary politics, so as to create proper channels of communications between experts, citizens, and politicians? Other questions derive instead from the shared basis of these two thin ideologies: both populism and technocracy, and their penal counter-parts, have a problematic relationship with political deliberation (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 112). Whether by appealing to the people, or to a cadre of unpolitical technical experts, both express intolerance toward political debate and political conflict (Loader & Sparks, 2017, p. 112; Müller, 2014). They therefore marginalize a vision where penal policy is premised on reflexivity and democratic procedures. As such, penal populism and epistemic crime control appear as an unsuitable, or at least incomplete, basis for a better penality.

Conclusion

Contemporary penal literature has adopted a number of approaches to analyzing the link between political ideologies and penality. One approach is to ask what different ideologies have to say about crime and punishment. This requires delving into different political ideologies, their main claims, and their understanding of issues relating to authority, state power, subjectivity, and collective co-existence. Robert Reiner’s analysis of social democracy has served as a case study for this approach, illustrating how the social democratic “ontology” fed directly into its diagnosis of crime causation and into its prescriptions for crime control.

As Loader and Sparks suggest, this approach can extend to asking about the effect of crime on political ideologies: How well have different political ideologies dealt with crime, particularly with the changing understanding, and public and political salience, of crime and social order? Social democracy has again served as a useful illustration of an ideology that was unable to live up to its promises of crime control through social inclusion and re-inclusion. Whether at the penal level, or at the level of broader social policy, social democracy was—at least in the United Kingdom and the United States—unable to maintain its quietly optimistic vision of increased affluence, social inclusion, and consequent reduction of crime.

Penal scholars have linked the demise of social democracy and penal welfarism, to the rise of neoliberalism (albeit with notable differences across countries). Neoliberalism provides the political backdrop for the third approach to political ideologies and penality: critique of ideology. The work of Peter Ramsay has demonstrated how contemporary penality—understood to include punishment but also criminal law and criminal offences—can be read as ideology. Here there is a move away from a more neutral “decoding” of ideology, to a more critical “unveiling” of the truth about power that penality conceals.

A close critical analysis of the United Kingdom’s dangerousness offences reveals that the law constructs all individuals as vulnerable individuals, archetypal victims, prey to each other’s selfish desires. What the offences conceal is that vulnerability is not in fact a universal fate, but is unequally distributed. It is also not an inevitable fate, but is the result of the historically contingent acceptance of neoliberal market logic by Western political elites. It also follows from the demise of those collective subjects that aimed to represent the working class. The contemporary criminal law hides its own inadequacy as a tool to restore (faith in) collective belonging. However much the remit of criminalization is broadened; as long as neoliberalism remains the dominant doxa, we will be left with our feelings of isolation, insecurity, and vulnerability.

Neoliberalism is thus a poor substitute for its ideological predecessors such as social democracy. The ascendancy of neoliberalism marks the decline of macro-ideologies and the rise of thin ideologies—these too have been linked to penality. Loader and Sparks, contesting the idea that the contemporary age is a post-ideological age, emphasise that closer attention should be paid to the thin ideologies that populate contemporary Western polities. They argue that conceptual links should be drawn between the ideologies’ main claims and the way these claims play out in the penal sphere. But they urge that these links to be drawn not just in a spirit of scientific observation, and certainly not in a spirit of lamentation, but to identify potential resources that might serve to construct a “better politics of crime.” This is the approach they adopt in relation to penal populism and epistemic crime control, and from which they salvage the need to consider how best to incorporate both public opinion and penal expertise into penal policy.

The literature on political ideologies and penality thus moves from macro-ideologies and their visions of social order, to the rise of thin ideologies and their narrower political outlooks, analyzing their various implications for contemporary punishment and crime control. What questions does this literature leave unanswered that penal scholars will have to contend with in the future?

The first, perhaps minor, is a question of method that arises from Loader and Sparks’ approach to the study of political ideologies and crime control. Distancing themselves from more critical approaches, Loader and Sparks invoke and attempt a neutral evaluation of ideology. This approach is motivated by the desire to look forward rather than back, and to construct a new penality rather than decry the passing of an old one. The approach is also motivated by a normative project that arises in opposition to claims that questions of law and order ought to be depoliticized (one variant of epistemic crime control). By contrast, Loader and Sparks argue in favor of reviving “the idea that ideological politics is the appropriate arena for contesting and determining answers to the criminal question” (2016, pp. 318–319). Crime and punishment are inevitably political questions, so best not obfuscate this fact, but address it head-on, and strive for a more democratic penality.

The first question that arises here is whether Loader and Sparks can simultaneously claim the inevitably political nature of crime and punishment—the ubiquity of ideology (as per Freeden); the normative underpinnings of their project; while also claiming that ideology should be analyzed neutrally. Otherwise said, their approach raises the question of whether a neutral evaluation of ideology is possible.

Is there not a contradiction inherent in claiming that almost all thinking about crime is a form of “political thinking,” and yet arguing that in thinking about political ideologies and penality it is necessary to suspend ideological judgment” and just “reveal and decode”? This is also a question of the proper relation between Loader and Sparks’ approach, and critique of ideology. Is it possible to do the one without also doing the other? As Loader and Sparks state, there is an “extended and rich social scientific debate about the concept of ideology and ideology critique” (2016, p. 319). Penal scholarship may now need to return to this debate in its own engagement with political ideologies, particularly where the study of ideologies and penality is undertaken with a normative project in mind.

The second question that the political ideology and penality scholarship raises is about the relationship between political ideologies and political institutions. Recently, there has been a burgeoning of analyses linking levels of penal punitiveness and penal moderation to different political institutional configurations.21 Nicola Lacey, for example, has tethered differences in punishment across Western democracies, to their diverging political economies and institutional organization (Lacey, 2008). Building on Peter Hall and David Soskice’s “Varieties of Capitalism” models (2001), Lacey distinguishes between liberal-market economies (LMEs) such as the United Kingdom, and co-ordinated market economies (CMEs), such as Germany. LMEs and CMEs differ in terms of institutional organization, for example in electoral arrangements, with LMEs typically possessing a first-past-the-post system, in contrast to CMEs, which typically possess systems of proportional representation. LMEs and CMEs also differ in terms of the extent to which the judiciary is insulated from popular and political pressures in favor of law and order and tougher sentences. These institutional structures affect the extent to which different ideas about crime and punishment flourish, persist, and impact upon penality. A similar conclusion can be drawn from the work of Vanessa Barker (2009), whose study of different US states testifies to the fact that different governance structures make a difference to the type of politics that takes place in any given polity (Lacey et al., 2018).

Consequently, scholars of political ideologies and penality need to ask themselves how different political ideas—not just about crime and punishment but also about power, authority, and collective coexistence—come to flourish, persist, and impact upon policy making. Political ideology may need to be studied together with its institutional environment. Lacey phrases this as a question of “ideas, interests, and institutions” (2016, pp. 2–3), all of which need to be combined for a full understanding of how penality and political ideologies interact. This becomes especially important to understand comparative penal differences. Scholars of comparative criminal justice have pointed, for example, to differences in the extent to which neoliberalism and neoliberal penality have taken hold across contexts (Cavadino & Dignan, 2006; Lacey, 2010). Loader and Sparks have argued that, in challenging assumptions about neoliberal hegemony, it is necessary to go beyond the study of the “different contexts of reception” of neoliberalism and move toward “close analysis of what neoliberalism means in those contexts” (2017, p. 325). Yet the question that arises from political institutionalist accounts, is whether meaning and context of reception are not in fact interdependent, and whether they should therefore not be addressed in tandem (Lacey et al., 2018).

The final question that we can ask of the literature that has studied political ideologies and punishment is a broad—and dispiriting—one. Loader and Sparks, in particular, advocate a better politics of punishment and crime control. Strong normative undertones are found also in Reiner’s work, and indeed in Ramsay’s analysis, when they decry, respectively, the passing of social democratic penality, and the political decline that frames contemporary criminal law and punishment. To the extent that Loader and Sparks, Ramsay, and Reiner link the state of punishment to the state of politics, their work then raises the question of whether a “better politics of crime” (Loader and Sparks, 2010) can be possible without their being a “better politics.” However productive it may be to mine existing thin ideologies for possible resources that might help polities to move toward a more moderate and democratic penality, the question remains, while politics is in crisis and democracy is “disfigured” (Urbinati, 2014), whether penality itself is not fated to follow suit.

Further Reading

Barker, V. (2009). The politics of imprisonment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Freeden, M. (2003). Ideology: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Freeden, M., & Stears, M. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford handbook of political ideologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Garland, D. (1990). Punishment and modern society. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Find this resource:

Garland, D. (2001). The culture of control. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Hay, D., Linebaugh, P., Rule, G. J., Thompson, E. P., & Winslow, C. (1975). Albion's fatal tree. London: Penguin Books.Find this resource:

Hudson, B. (2003). Understanding justice. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.Find this resource:

Lacey, N. (2013). Punishment, (neo)liberalism, and social democracy. In J. Simon & R. Sparks (Eds.), The Sage handbook of punishment and society (pp. 260–280). London: SAGE.Find this resource:

Lacey, N., Soskice, D., & Hope, D. (2018). Understanding the determinants of penal policy: crime, culture, and comparative political economy. Annual Review of Criminology, 1(1), 195–217.Find this resource:

Loader, I. (2008). The anti-politics of crime. Theoretical Criminology, 12(3), 399–410.Find this resource:

Loader, I. (2010). For penal moderation. Theoretical Criminology, 14(3), 349–367.Find this resource:

Loader, I., & Sparks, R. (2017). Penal populism and epistemic crime control. In A. Liebling, S. Maruna, & L. McAra (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of criminology (6th ed., pp. 98–115). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Pratt, J., Brown, D., Brown, M., Hallsworth, S., & Morrison, W. (Eds.). (2005). The new punitiveness. Cullompton, UK: Willan.Find this resource:

Ramsay, P. (2006). The responsible subject as citizen: Criminal law, democracy and the welfare state. Modern Law Review, 69(1), 29–58.Find this resource:

Ramsay, P. (2012). The insecurity state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Ramsay, P. (2016). A democratic theory of imprisonment. In A. Dzur, I. Loader, & R. Sparks (Eds.), Democratic theory and mass incarceration (pp. 84–113). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Reiner, R. (2007). Law and order. An honest citizen's guide to crime and control. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Find this resource:

Simon, J. (2007). Governing through crime: How the war on crime transformed American democracy and created a culture of fear. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Urbinati, N. (2014). Democracy disfigured. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Find this resource:

Wacquant L. (2009a). Prisons of poverty, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Find this resource:

Wacquant L. (2009b). Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Find this resource:

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Notes:

(1.) This definition is not entirely uncontroversial, particularly given the recent hybridization of administrative and criminal law in fields such as immigration control. For a recent discussion see Lucia Zedner (2016).

(2.) Freeden (2003) and Loader and Sparks (2016) give other examples of thin ideologies. However, this article only discusses populism and technocracy, using them as examples with which to explore Loader and Spark’s approach to the study of thin ideologies and penality. Note that, when talking about right-of-centre European populisms, Freeden questions whether populism is in fact a thin ideology or whether it is too insubstantial even for that label (Freeden, 2017, pp. 3, 10). Other authors—including Loader and Sparks (2017, p. 100)—have nonetheless qualified populism as a thin ideology.

(3.) Given its focus on Western democracies, this article does not provide any in-depth treatment of penological perspectives from outside such geographical confines. It is important to note, however, that the question of contemporary punishment and its determinants has recently been addressed from the perspective of the so-called “Global South” (Iturralde, 2018). The literature on punishment in the Global South aims—in part—to make up for the “restricted [. . .] reach and explanatory potential” of “Euro-American” narratives (Fonseca, 2018, p. 55). In relation to ideology, work by authors such as Iturralde (2018) and Sozzo (2016) has addressed the issue of neoliberalism and neoliberal penality, in particular as developed by Loïc Wacquant (2009a, b). Both Iturralde and Sozzo have tested Wacquant’s contention that a “neoliberal common sense” is spreading outward from the United States to—among others—Latin America. Latin America is of particular interest in this respect, insofar as a number of Latin American nations have explicitly rejected neoliberalism, so much so that Sozzo qualifies them as “post-neoliberal” (2016). Such nations thus raise the question of just how neoliberalism and penality are linked, where polities classified as post-neoliberal have nonetheless acquired features coherent with Wacquant’s “neoliberal penality.”

(4.) According to David Garland, contemporary Western punitiveness is marked simultaneously by a punitive reaction to deviance, which manifests itself in increasing incarceration, and with the tendency to define deviance down. Deviance is written off as a normal fact of life, to be dealt with pragmatically and by agents other than the state, such as the potential crime victim (Garland, 2001).

(5.) Neoliberalism is closely associated with Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States (Harvey, 2005, p. 1).

(6.) For a more complex picture see Lacey (2013).

(7.) Penal welfarism was not an exclusive preserve of the Left (Garland, 2001, p. 37).

(8.) Though critics from the Left judged this awareness to be insufficient. “Labeling theory,” for example, questioned a simple acceptance of “crime” as a category (Becker, 1997). Note also the critique that a social democratic approach to crime and punishment was too focused on class, at the expense of other lines of social differentiation such as gender and race (see Reiner, 2009, p. 19).

(9.) Garland’s main case studies are the United States and the United Kingdom, though he extends the term—and the phenomenon it denotes—to “most Western societies” (2001, p. 140).

(10.) See the Labour party’s 1990s slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,” which, nominally at least, expresses the desire to address the determinants of crime.

(11.) Fordism is the term used to indicate capitalism between the end of the Second World War, and the 1970s. It was characterized by mass industrial production, high levels of relatively low-skill labor, labor market stability, and low unemployment levels (Lacey, 2008). As of the 1970s, Fordism gave way to post-Fordism, with a decline in industrial labor, replaced by work in the service sector, with work overall becoming more flexible, decentralized, and precarious (De Giorgi, 2006).

(12.) Penal welfarism was also subject to critique from within the fields of criminology and penology, which came to weaken its “axiomatic” status (Garland, 2001, ch. 3).

(13.) For an account that complicates the issue of penal welfarism’s demise in England and Wales see Zedner (2002).

(14.) Authors writing about Southern Europe pose similar comparative challenges (Gallo, 2015; Cheliotis & Xenakis, 2010; Melossi, 2001). However, the national contexts addressed by these authors do not allow for simple alignment with literature on the demise or resistance of social democracy: Italy, for example, with its mixed political economy, was never an archetypal social democracy (Gallo, 2015). Literature on Italian penality has in fact addressed the question of the lasting effects of the post-war ideological formations—Communism and Catholicism—on contemporary penal trends (Gallo, 2015; Melossi, 2001; for a broader historical analysis of punishment and ideology see also Melossi & Pavarini, 2018).

(15.) In Law, Ideology, and Punishment, Alan Norrie (1991) similarly undertakes a “historical analysis of the development of the modern [Liberal] philosophy of punishment”—in particular its “retributive element” (1991, p. 2). In his work, Norrie analyzes the “abstract, legal (juridical) individual” (1991, p. 5), revealing it to be the expression of “a historically generated and contradictory ideology”—juridical individualism (1991, p. 11). According to Norrie, the idea of the juridical individual and, with it, the idea of the state as “abstract, independent, and ahistorical” are “ideology” because they exist as “ideal, mystifying forms of reality” (1991, p. 12). They are not “entirely illusory” (1991, p. 8), but they do “partially and misleadingly represent” (1991, p. 12) reality. They misrepresent “the reality of human life” (1991, p. 11)—populated as it is by real men and women in given social contexts, rather than the abstract subjects of the law; and “the reality of a concrete State” (1991, p. 12)—political, and acting according to “raison d’état,” rather than acting merely according to rule of law principles (1991, p. 8). According to Norrie, it is in this sense that liberal legal philosophy, and the philosophy of punishment that derives from it, are to be understood as ideology.

(16.) For a similar critical analysis of criminal law doctrines of England and Wales see Norrie (2014), Crime, Reason, and History.

(17.) Under section 1(1) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, an ASBO could be imposed on persons, 10 years old and above, who had acted in a manner that “caused or was likely to cause, harassment, alarm, or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself” (s. 1(1.a), if the ASBO was “necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts”(s. 1(1.b). The order could be imposed in civil proceedings or in addition to a sentence following criminal conviction. The breach of the order was itself a criminal offence. For a detailed discussion, see Ramsay (2012, ch. 1).

(18.) The conduct requirement for attempts under the UK Criminal Attempts Act, 1981, is thought to require a “confrontation” between the offender and the victim or, in the case of property offences such as burglary, between the offender and the property (Clarkson, 2009).

(19.) Dangerousness regimes and political ideologies are also the subject of Harry Annison’s monograph Dangerous Politics: Risk, Political Vulnerability, and Penal Policy (2015). Arguably, Annison asks questions that are closer to Loader and Sparks’ first set of questions, though his work is directed at identifying the ideological roots of a particular sentencing regime. Here the ideological tradition is the “Third Way,” and the sentencing regime is the United Kingdom’s now abolished Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). Annison’s work uses ideology in a broader fashion than just in reference to the “Third Way.” Ideology is also understood as individuals’ beliefs and traditions, here the beliefs and traditions of key policy makers, which combined with broader political narratives and political processes to yield the IPP.

(20.) This account, too, is susceptible to criticism from the comparative perspective (Gallo, 2017).

(21.) The term is used here to indicate an approach to punishment that has resisted the retributivist and incapacitative temptations seen in the United Kingdom and the United States and that is manifest in lower and stable incarceration rates (Lacey, 2008). For a theoretical discussion see Loader (2010).